Tag Archives: Narendra Modi

Say Howdy to Modi in Houston this September

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Houston, Texas to attend an Indian-American community summit hosted by the Texas India Forum (TIF) on Sunday September 22.  According to a TIF statement released on August 20, over 50,000 people are expected to attend the sold-out ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event at Houston’s NRG stadium. Prime Minister Modi will arrive in Houston to meet leading business, political and community leaders as well as members of the IndianAmerican community, before traveling to New York to address the UN General Assembly on September 28.

“I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to Houston, home to one of the biggest and most vibrant Indian communities in the U.S.” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I know how much his visit means to not only the Indian diaspora in our city but throughout the region. This historic visit will strengthen the already robust bonds between Houston and India on trade, culture, and tourism – all of which benefit every Houstonian.”

The ‘Howdy, Modi’ event which is themed Shared Dreams, Bright Futures will feature a cultural program produced by MELA Arts Connect (New York), that showcases talented  Indian-American performers. Jugal Malani, who chairs the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ organizing committee described the cultural program as “…a unique view on the Indian-American experience” that “promises to show the diversity of our community while being an engaging and entertaining performance”.

The program also will highlight contributions made by Indian-Americans across various industries, including technology, education, medicine, petroleum and energy. One key contributor is Dr. Durga Agarwal, the founding President of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston and the President and CEO of Piping Technology & Products Inc. Dr. Agarwal has sponsored a major award to the University of Houston that will increase the annual budget of the Engineering and Research division by $ 36 million.

“Indian-Americans today are not just educated, wealthy, and powerful individuals,” said Dr. Agarwal, “but a public service-driven community that is giving back to America, our adopted country, while keeping close ties with our homeland, India, serving both and contributing to both.” This is reflected in the growing trade between India and Houston which according to TIF, averaged $4.8 billion annually from 2009 to 2018and was valued at $7.2 billion in 2018. In 2019 (to date), India is Houston’s fourth-largest trading partner, behind Brazil, China, and Mexico*.

Bhavesh (Bob) Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell calls Houston “…one of the most diverse cities in America.” He highlighted its many advantages, including its central location and access to global trade routes, a trained and talented workforce, and a business-friendly regulatory environment which makes the region an ideal partner for business and commerce. “I’m personally proud of the vibrant and welcoming Indian community here and the work they do to strengthen the ties between our two great countries,” said Mr. Patel, “and we are honored to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this historic event.”

More than 1,000 volunteers and 650 Texas-based Welcome Partners helped organize the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event which is focused on celebrating and strengthening the ties between India and America.

Texas Senator John Cornyn, Co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, welcomed PM Modi to Houston on behalf of all Indian-Americans in Texas. “India continues to be key security and economic partner of the United States,” he said, “and I look forward to seeing that relationship strengthen with his visit to Texas.”

Texas India Forum (TIF) is a not-for-profit promoting cooperation between the United States and India.

For more information, please visit www.howdymodi.org
Texas India Forum
12600 Cardinal Meadow Dr. Sugar Land, Texas 77478
832.356.MODI info@howdymodi.org www.howdymodi.org

*Source: WISERTrade, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Foreign Trade Division

 

 

 

Decoding Modi’s Resounding Victory

Prime Minister Narendra Modi achieved a super-sized victory in the recently held Lok Sabha elections in India. This is his second consecutive term in office and he won it by a whopping majority. His party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has crossed the 300-seat mark in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

Let’s begin by looking at the state of the economy in which people have voted for PM Modi. During his election campaign in 2013-14, Modi raised expectations of a great economic revival, high growth and tens of millions of new jobs for the ever-growing workforce. The new government hit the ground running and the first two years were action-packed with new programs and plans.  But, at the end of his five-year term, the economic slowdown is visible even through the fog of official statistics. Exports, barring a modest recent pickup, have been stagnant for the last five years, creating pressure on the economy, and reflecting growing lack of global competitiveness. Manufacturing is sluggish. Banking and the power sectors require urgent reform. Further, India’s unemployment rate hit 6.1% in the fiscal year ending 2018; reportedly the country’s highest in over four decades. An estimated 12 million young Indians join the workforce every year, and the country needs to grow much faster in order to provide jobs for all of them. Another set of figures released by the government showed that gross domestic product expanded 5.8% in the quarter ending March, 2019. That’s a sharp decline from 6.6% growth in the previous quarter and the weakest rate in last five years.

As a result, the state of the economy is sharply diminishing living conditions of millions of people in India, a country that is already home to some of the world’s poorest and hungriest people. More than half of India’s population (around 700 million) is still living under ‘multi-dimensional poverty’ compared to 5.2 per cent in China.

But, Modi, who first swept to power in 2014 on promises to revive India’s economy and boost growth and job market, won election again by even bigger margin.  

Why did the people repose faith in him?  Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

There were no serious corruption charges against the government and inflation was managed well during the first term (but faces upward pressure now). Further, one could attribute BJP’s success to better administration of welfare schemes/projects, and the Balakot strikes just before the election which retaliated against Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror groups and that pushed   the spirit of nationalism. While all these factors may have played a role they do not, even in combination, satisfactorily account for the magnitude of BJP’s sweeping victory in the frustrating job market and skidding economy.

What may have worked for BJP is that it succeeded to a large extent in turning this election into a referendum on PM Modi. Opposition parties appear to have helped in this process as their campaigns have primarily been about ousting Modi, rather than offering positive alternative visions of what they will do if elected to power. As the opposition was fragmented and offered no obvious PM candidate, this cemented the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor in favor of Modi.

But that is not the only reason behind his whopping success.  It’s possible some deep structural shifts are taking place in the Indian polity and Modi was smart enough to comprehend these in his favor. Indians, especially the young ones, are in a hurry to move away from ‘Third World’ space it currently occupies. And, they sensed that Modi can do it. India could be second ‘China’ under his leadership!  The BJP’s election manifesto, which was released just three days before the general election, aimed to make India a ‘developed’ nation by 2047, on completion of 100 years of Independence. “Our aim (is) to change India from a developing country to a developed country. We want to fight poverty rather than sit inside air conditioned rooms. Nationalism is our inspiration and inclusion and good governance is our mantra”.

Despite many problems people are confident that India’s ‘tryst with destiny’ could be achieved under Modi’s leadership. They consider him as a ‘messiah’ or expected deliverer of achieving the goal of developed and prosperous India.  Here, the media played a very active and vital role in promoting that image. In fact, Modi was in virtual reality due to digital excesses. Possibly, voters might have thought that Modi would do wonders in his second term.  We have to remember that Indians generally have hope when the situation appears to be hopeless. And, five years later in 2019, India has again placed high hopes in Narendra Modi. Will he deliver?

In 2014, Modi asked the Indians to give him 10 years to transform India. Well, here is his chance. So what should PM Modi do? A top American corporate leader, John Chambers, has asserted, while   congratulating him on his election victory that “in the next five years, PM Modi will lay the groundwork for India’s economic growth and prosperity for the next quarter century.”  And, there is no reason to doubt his observations.

First of all, two issues need urgent attention: agrarian unrest and the related job crisis. Any durable solution to agrarian crises requires non-farm jobs. The agrarian sector generates less than 15% of GDP but employed around 45% of the workers. It means that output per worker in this sector is less than one-fourth of that in industry and services combined. “With output per worker in industry and services itself low, per-worker output in agriculture is truly tiny”, noted by the economist Arvind Panagariya of Columbia University. One cannot resolve agrarian unrest without absorbing at least two-thirds of those dependent on the farm in non-farm jobs. So, generating non-agrarian jobs that provide adequate wages is the biggest issue.   

Secondly, there needs to be a concurrent increase in productivity. India became the fifth largest economy in the world in terms of GDP in 2018 but still it has a very-very low per capita GDP, as per IMF. It is placed at 122nd position among 187 countries.

What is needed now is a new generation of economic reforms which will unleash productive forces and generate jobs.

Modi has to recognize that the export-oriented, low-skill, large-scale manufacturing jobs that developing economies have relied upon (and that was the key to much of China’s success) are on the wane around the world. Automation and AI are reducing the amount of low-skill work that the manufacturing sector requires and is adversely affecting the job market.  Thus, there are many reforms that India is required to carry out to attain competitive strength in manufacturing and reducing the level of unemployment and underemployment. These would require changes in labor and land laws, cutting corporate and general taxes, and improving basic infrastructure especially uninterrupted cheap power supply. The availability of the water is another crucial issue.

Most importantly, unlocking the human potential to enhance productivity is a must and it should be India’s priority, since India’s Unique Selling Point (USP) is its people.

Let us consider some facts. India has done well over the past decade or so to get most of its children into school. It has done less well at getting them to learn anything. Analysts are, therefore, already worrying that India’s demographic dividend — its vast pool of young people — will become a curse: Without jobs, all those young people could drag down the country instead of pushing it towards upper-middle income status. The problem is that they are desperately short of preparation for both the old economy and the new. In addition, the population growth is also a worrying factor.  The current population growth in India is mainly caused by unwanted fertility.  Around five in ten live births are unintended/unplanned or simply unwanted by the women who experience them which    trigger continued high population growth. Around 26 million children were born in India in 2018, and out of this about 13 million births could be classified as unwanted. Further, based on the National Family Health Surveys (1 to 4), it is estimated that in 2018 around 445 million people out of 1,350 million in India were a result of unwanted pregnancies.  With a large number of people resulting from unwanted pregnancies, how can one think about using them for nation building?   

What India does in the next five years will determine not only the destiny of the country but also of PM Modi? A person like Modi knows about it that the people elected him with immense hope that he will change their lives for better. Investments in education, health, living environment and its determinants – the social sector – therefore, should be made a priority in the next five years to lay the foundation for a developed India by 100th birth anniversary of India. For this, PM Modi must use unmatched political capital to make it happen today!  

After obtaining formal degrees from Harvard and Australian National universities, Dr. Devendra Kothari has been working on issues pertaining to population and development. He can be contacted at: dkothari42@gmail.c9om or 09829119868.   Last year, his comments on “Population and Climate Change” appeared in the New York Times (Sept. 11, 2018). Also see his Blog at: kotharionindia.blogspot.com

How The Yoga-Ayurveda Combine Helped Me

My Early Brush With Yoga

My mother was a Yoga teacher, an alumnus of a Yoga school where yoga was taught in a comprehensive manner: breathing, diet, attitudinal training, etc, accompanied the asanas, and when done sincerely, and over a period of time, yielded results of better living and good health. So, as a family we did practise Yoga, and my sibling and I even became demonstrators for my mother’s classes at Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan and other places. But needless to say, very reluctantly.

Though we knew the benefits, as we saw her students get relief in countless cases of illness – asthma, back pains, high blood pressure, upper respiratory disorders, obesity – and also stress. In fact, there was actually a case of a young schoolboy, who had lost his voice owing to what my mother figured could be excessive body-building efforts; within few months of her yogic care, he actually got back his voice.

Despite all this exposure, we children dreaded Yoga-time in the evening, and as soon as we got a chance, we dropped it out of our routine.

Couple Of Decades Later…

On Diwali day of 2005, I found myself checking the word `leukaemia’ in an online dictionary: the dreaded word had made its way into my blood report, and I was sure it couldn’t be what I thought it was.

But it was. My boys were then five years and six months old, respectively. Bone marrow transplant, the known permanent cure was not an option for various reasons. Thankfully, there was a breakthrough chemotherapy drug – though how long it could prolong life was not known. However, one had to take it daily, life-long, and endure all its attendant side effects – also daily.

Thus began my debilitating journey with cancer and the promise of life sustained by chemotherapy – at the age of 33, and with one little boy and a toddler in tow.

My Real Tryst With Yoga

Chemotherapy was prolonging my life, but it came with very heavy quality-of-life costs. Plus, the drug was new and no one knew how long it would offer remission. There were also instances of people turning resistant to it. I desperately searched and tried all kinds of alternative therapies for support. One by one, I read about and tried them all out – You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay; past-life regression; affirmations, healing stones, nutrition therapy. Though begun with gusto, none of them really seemed to be helping really.

My mother was gone by then, so that refuge was not available to me. But my father knew an elderly gentleman, Dr Sivananda Murty – an embodiment of compassion and wisdom. It started with taking homeopathic medicines from him for symptomatic relief; his concern and his soothing words inspired confidence and trust – and the fact that he had a radiant face, was extremely energetic, as also aware, sharp, knowledgeable and a terrific sense of humour. Later, I got to know he was a practising yogi, of quite some stature.

Yogic-Ayurvedic Lifestyle

Though there was no imposing schedule I had to follow, I knew a few changes would need to be made.

Diet, of course, was to be nutritious, though light and I cut out the heavy and toxic. Here, I cannot stress enough the importance of a wholesome diet, and according to ayurvedic principles of eating according to season and time of the day. I would go so far as to say that the current trend of veganism could lead to serious imbalances later in life, both in body and mind. Food cannot be broken down into nutrients alone; it is the totality of the food that contributes to our being.

Asanas, again, according to body type, morning and evening walks, to soak in sunlight and the early morning oxygen. I was taught pranayama or breathing exercises, not too vigorous.

Gradually, I was able to accommodate meditation – different kinds of meditation, for different purposes, and at different times of the day. Mantras helped me to invoke the Sun’s healing energy, some general chants to keep calm and feel connected with the higher power. I realised the power of herbs – in providing stamina, in helping digestion and elimination of toxins.

What I realised is that many of these things were Ayurveda in practice, which is nothing but a sister science of Yoga. Or perhaps, Ayurveda forms the base for Yoga; either way, they work hand in hand and reinforce each other. Herbs, mantra, foods, colours, stones and many more things are all part of Ayurveda. Later, I found good resources in the works of Vedacharya David Frawley, Dr Robert Svoboda and Vasant Lad.

The biggest revelation was music. I had always been passionate about music and thought I knew about its “healing effects”. But here was a different suggestion: I was told to listen to classical ragas of Hindustani music at the appropriate time (each raga has a time that it has to be sung in). And though initially it was pleasing only to my ears, I realised that it was impacting me at a deep level: there were episodes of relief in severe neurological issues caused by the chemo drug, which the doctors had neither been able to identify nor cure. As I discovered later, classical music and its time-theory is part of Ayurveda, and that the ragas’ notes penetrate deep into the spinal cord, creating healing effects.

The best part about the entire experience was that I did not have to give up anything or change anything in my life – my likes, my preferences in food, people, dressing, recreation, entertainment, sense of humour. Some changes occurred on their own: for instance, I realised that honey taken three times a day had tremendously aided my digestion by helping eliminate toxins, and given me strength. In their turn, the toxins that left also left me bereft of the craving for such foods that would harm me.

I suspect the other positive impressions I was taking in had a role to play too – music, the right food in the right order, eaten at the right time – they had effected subtle changes in my psyche, and that had also a role to play in my unhealthy cravings disappearing. Perhaps, the connection back with nature and its cycles was helping.

The explanation for all this, I found recently in David Frawley’s book Ayurveda and the Mind. I understood that we have three vital essences that are responsible for our vitality, clarity and endurance – they are called prana (life force), tejas (inner radiance) and ojas (primal vigour).

All these three have psychological and emotional functions to perform: prana helps the mind respond to the challenges of life; tejas enables the mind to judge correctly; ojas gives patience and endurance that gives psychological stability.

Again, on an emotional level, prana maintains emotional harmony and creativity; tejas gives courage and vigour to help accomplish extraordinary actions, and ojas provides peace, calm and contentment.

It is obvious that all these three are desirable for a peaceful, meaningful existence. And how are they built up? These are built up in two ways: a) from the essence of nutrients we take in from food, heat and air, and b) by the impressions we take in through the senses.

Thus, the right food and impressions ingested – in accordance with ayurvedic principles, would help impact the psyche and mind and, bolstered by the effects of Yoga, would create and restore health. Viola!

My own experience was that, over time, and I don’t know how and when it happened, I had adopted things that I had no idea existed, and often didn’t even believe in. Just incremental changes – so gradual that they went unnoticed – that worked on each other and added up. As toxins left, strength at both the physical and subtle levels was built, and that further gave me strength to let go of other toxins. Some of my worst phobias went too – as did my acid reflux, and my hypothyroidism, my eczema.

Cutting a long story short, it’s now 13 years since I began considering alternative ways of living. The chemo continues, but it is a small fraction of the original prescription. I have gone back to working, and pursuing other interests. There’s no denying that I am a work in progress – we all are – but if it is nothing short of a miracle that I am where I stand today.

Just a small clarification is in order here. We hear about different forms of Yoga today – power Yoga, hot Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and others. While these surely have their purpose, it needs to be clarified that while dealing with serious life issues, what comes handy is the comprehensive Yoga, which deals with all aspects of existence – body, life breath, psyche, the consciousness.

Bhakti Yoga

What I now realise is, that without really thinking about it, a good number of steps of the eight-fold path of Yoga laid out by Patanjali were scaled. At one time, they had seemed so daunting and non-negotiable!

I didn’t have to change anything, or exclude any materialistic activity or eschew its fruits. All that was needed was to mentally dedicate everything to the higher truth. The rest was left to the higher power.

There is a verse in the Bhagawad Gita which translates to:

Whatever you do, whatever you eat, what you sacrifice, what you give, whatever austerity you engage yourself in, offer it to me.

(Yatkaroshi vadasnasi vajjuhoshi dadaasiyat, Yattapasyasi kaunteya tatkurushva madarpanam)

For a near-atheist, it was an unimaginable thing to do, but I had no choice, and so I did. Krishna was my chosen one – the powerful but fun, multifaceted, enigmatic god. It’s not a coincidence that he is, as I realised later – Yogeshwara.

Over the years, I also realised that our Indian deities and idols were only a means to an end. Just as an example: Mahalakshmi, the supreme mother is the Aadishakti, the original energy. What is the harm in connecting with that energy, with tools like mantras, meditation and appropriate worship? Many such benefits are available to all, at specific energised places all over India.

The Last Word

Religions, with their prescriptions of activity, are a way of life with each section of humanity. However, they widely differ in content from each other, and to the extent that they are based on the assertions of a few and vertically divide society irreconcilably, they become selfish, and a kind of materialism.

The Gita seeks to make every man a Yogi. Ultimately, the state of being unaffected by the results of action, and therefore, the ability to sail smoothly on the waves of the vicissitudes of life – is Yoga. It first benefits the individual and then permeates his surroundings.